A friend of mine is planning to have a go at some cyanotype printing, but he's a little unsure of which material to use for the negative.

He's conducted a lot of research, but the source material is either old books or youtube videos, none of which go into much detail about the process of making the negative itself.

His plan so far is to produce a source image, converts it to a negative and then print onto acetate at the desired size (6" x 4" most likely), then print from that.

The intention is to only work in black and white, and to print using a laser printer onto the acetate. The printer in question prints at 1200 dpi on A4 sheets.

Is it likely that 1200 dpi would be a high enough resolution to produce a suitable negative to print from?

I'd be interested to hear from anybody who has done cyanotype printing in the past to find out their perspectives on it.

  • What kind of research has he conducted? Using Google, you will find plenty on easily understandable tutorials on how to make cyanotype prints.
    – jarnbjo
    Jan 9 '18 at 21:14

One of the major advantages of alt processes is that you need not be too fussy with your negatives. About anything will do! (do check out the algae cyanotypes from 1840's by Anna Atkins!)

Having said that: good starting point are transparencies used for overhead projectors. These were more common before beamers took them over, but the blank transparencies are still produced and sold. They work the best in inkjet printers, some laser printers can ruin them by overheating.

1200 dpi is more than enough for a contact copy. A cyanotype will be less contrasty than a regular print, and will thus seem a bit softer, but this should not be seen as a problem (though you might wish to remind your friend to turn up the contrast slider of his photo before inverting it).

And should your friend still worry about the resolution, tell him to use the full A4 size. He will be making his own paper anyhow, and cyanotype chemicals are cheap. This will force a bigger viewing distance, making the print resolution even less relevant.

  • You need special transparencies both for inkjet printers and for laser printers or copy machines. Transparencies for inkjet printers have a special coating to absorb the liquid ink, which would otherwise not stick to the smooth plastic surface. Transparencies for laser printers are heat resistant enough to survive a trip through the printer. Be aware that some printer inks are transparent to ultraviolet light. These will not work to make large format negatives for alternative processes like cyanotype.
    – jarnbjo
    Jan 9 '18 at 21:12

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